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The Sayings of Confucius.
The Harvard Classics. 1909–14.


OF the Chi having eight rows of dancers in his hall, Confucius said: “If this is to be borne, what is not to be borne?”At the end of worship, the Three Clans made use of the Yung hymn.
The Master said:
  • “‘The dukes and princes assist,
  • Solemn is the Son of Heaven;’
  • what sense has this in the hall of the Three Clans?”The Master said: “A man without love, what is courtesy to him? A man without love, what is music to him?”Lin Fang asked, What is the life of ceremony?
    The Master said: “A great question! At hightides, waste is worse than thrift: at burials, grief outweighs nicety.”The Master said: “The wild tribes have kings; whilst the realm of Hsia is without!”The Chi worshipped on Mount T´ai..
    The Master said to Jan Yu: “Canst thou not stop this?”
    He answered: “I cannot.”
    “Alas!” said the Master; “dost thou set Mount T´ai below Lin Fang?”The Master said: “A gentleman has no rivalries-except perhaps in archery; and then, as bowing he joins the winners, or steps down to see the loser drink, throughout the struggle he is still the gentleman.”Tzu-hsia asked: “What is the meaning of:
  • ‘Her cunning smiles,
  • Her dimples light,
  • Her lovely eyes,
  • So clear and bright,
  • The ground, not yet
  • With colours dight’?”

  • The Master said: “Colouring follows groundwork.”
    “Then does courtesy follow after?” said Tzu-hsia.
    “Shang,” said the Master, “thou hast hit my meaning! Now I can talk of poetry to thee.”The Master said: “I can speak of the manners of Hsia; but for Chi witnesses fail. I can speak of the manners of Yin; but for Sung witnesses fail. This is due to their dearth of books and great men. Were there enough of these, they would witness for me.”The Master said: “After the drink offering at the Great Sacrifice, I have no wish to see more.”One asked about the words of the Great Sacrifice.The Master said: “I do not understand them. Could one understand them, he would overlook the world as I this”—and he pointed to his palm.Worship as though those ye worship stood before you; worship the spirits, as though they stood before you.
    The Master said: “If I take no part in the sacrifice, it is none to me.”Wang-sun Chia said: “What is the meaning of ‘it is better to court the Kitchen God than the God of the Home’?”
    “Not at all,” said the Master. “A sin against Heaven is past praying for.”The Master said: “Two lines of kings have passed beneath the ken of Chou. How rich in art is Chou! It is Chou I follow.”On entering the Great Temple, the Master asked how each thing was done.
    One said: “Who says that the man of Tsou’s son has a knowledge of ceremony? On entering the Great Temple, he asked how each thing was done!”
    On hearing this, the Master said: “Such is the ceremony.The Master said: “To pierce through the target does not score in archery; because men differ in strength. This was the old rule.”Tzu-kung wished to do away with the sheep offering at the new moon. The Master said: “Thou lovest the sheep, Tz´u: I love the rite.”The Master said: “Treat the king with all courtesy, men call it fawning.”Duke Ting asked how a king should behave to his ministers; how ministers should serve their king?
    Confucius answered: “A king should behave with courtesy to his ministers; ministers should serve their king faithfully.”The Master said: “The poem ‘The Osprey’ is glad, but not wanton; it is sad, but not morbid.”Duke Ai asked Tsai Wo about the shrines of the guardian spirits. Tsai Wo answered: “The Hsia Emperors grew firs round them; the men of Yin grew cypress; the men of Chou grew chestnut, meaning ‘jest not over holy matters.’”
    On hearing this, the Master said: “I do not speak of what is ended, chide what is settled, or find fault with what is past.”The Master said: “How shallow was Kuan Chung!”
    “But,” said one, “was not Kuan Chung thrifty?”
    “Kuan owned San Kuei, and in his household none doubled offices,” said the Master; “was that thrift?”
    “At least Kuan Chung was versed in courtesy.”
    The Master said: “Kings screen their gates with trees; Kuan, too, had trees to screen his gate. When two kings make merry together, they have a stand for the turned-down cups; Kuan had a turned-down cup-stand too! If Kuan were versed in courtesy, who is not versed in courtesy?”The Master said to the chief musician of Lu: “How to play music may be known. At first each part in unison; then, a swell of harmony, each part distinct, rolling on to the finish.”The warden of Yi asked to see Confucius, saying: “No gentleman has ever come here, whom I have failed to see.”
    The followers presented him.
    On leaving he said: “My lads, why lament your fall? The world has long been astray. Heaven will make of the Master a warning bell.”The Master said: “All beautiful and noble is the music of Shao! The music of Wu is as beautiful, but less noble.”The Master said: “Rank without bounty; ritual without reverence; mourning without grief, why should I cast them a glance?”